A birthday celebration with Alex

I celebrated my birthday and my husband’s belated birthday at Pollen restaurant which is located at the back of the Flower Dome at Gardens By The Bay (GBTB). Unlike previous years, we now have a plus one, baby Alex.

Now about Pollen, I found out about it from the dining selection in GBTB website. It is opened by a former head chef in one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, Jason Atherton, who has his own Michelin-starred restaurant. (Words have it that Chef Jason left Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant because he fell out with the foul-mouthed chef.) Anyway it turns out Pollen is Chef Jason’s second culinary venture in Singapore; his first is a Tapas bar in Chinatown, Esquina.

I booked Pollen for lunch since it’s difficult to take Alex out for dinner. (His bedtime is 7.30pm.) The other reason is because I found out it offered a pretty reasonable set lunch at S$55++ per person. That price also allows you to enter Flower Dome (where ticket price is S$12 per local resident adult). The reviews on the food are mainly positive, and so I thought we should give it a try though I didn’t have any expectations prior to the lunch. My husband even lowered his expectations so that he won’t get disappointed, still he thought chef Jason would strive to serve good food since he has a reputation to protect.

We had wanted to arrive at Pollen half an hour earlier because we had to make sure Alex was napping during our lunch. Otherwise he would start crying when he is stuck inside an immobile car seat. So if he is awake when we’re having a meal outside, my husband and I will have to take turns to eat while one of us pushes him around. Alex is a stimulation and motion junkie, and the moving stroller helps him to nap. So we planned to push Alex around the Flower Dome after we reached the restaurant, so that we could have a peaceful lunch while he napped. He, however, fell asleep on the way there. What luck, that relieved us of having to push him around, especially since we were late.

The restaurant offers a buggy service at the entry of GBTB, but Alex was napping in the car seat/stroller and we definitely didn’t want to wake him up. So we declined the buggy service and instead asked the driver for direction to the restaurant. We were told to take the escalator/elevator next to the Cloud Forest conservatory down one level, and walk along the path by the bay (next to Majestic Bay Restaurant), towards the direction of the Flyer. Pollen is located after this seafood restaurant.

When we arrived, we were shown our table where room was set aside to park Alex’s stroller, which I had requested during reservation. The restaurant can seat 120 pax including the bar area and is rather spacious. We were surprised by the significant number of lunch-time diners though the restaurant wasn’t full. In fact there was no table available for lunch the next day, which was my birthday (so I celebrated a day earlier.) The decor of the restaurant is rather clean-line, with wood-panelled flooring, and there is a row of flower plants along the glass wall facing the bay.

The set lunch is no longer S$55++ per person but S$70++. Looking at both the set lunch and ala carte menus, the former is definitely more value for money. It is a 3-course set consisting of appetizer, main and a dessert. As we looked through the options, we were served bread with butter: sour rye bread and mini wholemeal baguettes. Later another wait-staff came over to serve us a cod purée dip and olives to go with the bread.

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I like the purée, but I don’t think much of the bread. Even though the inside is soft, the crust is too hard for my liking. My husband however likes it this way, though he wishes it was warmer.

I wanted to place our orders, which were the same, and signaled to the maitre’D. He informed me that he would get a staff to come to our table. After waiting for a few minutes, no one appeared and I gave my request to another staff. My husband thought I was too impatient, telling me I should take it easy and have a relaxing meal instead of rushing things. Anyway the staff responsible for taking orders soon came over, and we selected young vegetable salad with dill marinated cauliflowers and goat curd for appetizer; braised welsh lamb shoulder, lamb cutlet, baby gem and baked celeriac for main; and pistachio parfait, honey saffron ice cream and toasted brioche for dessert.

I was still munching on my bread when Alex woke up, oh no! I tried pushing the stroller to and fro to simulate motion, but he wasn’t buying it. After a couple of minutes, he screw up his face and started crying. I had to push him to the Flower Dome for a walk to put him to sleep. A staff directed me to use the escalator inside the restaurant which leads to the bar and casual dining section one level up, next to the gardens. After walking around for more than 5 minutes, Alex was still awake; my husband called me to return to the restaurant since the appetizer had arrived. My husband had finished his and took over the stroller-pushing duty.

The vegetable salad appetizer consists of young beetroot and carrot, and cauliflowers, and comes with goat curd as dressing.

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The vegetables are pretty tasty though I don’t like them with their little roots sticking out of them. I like my vegetables completely clean, whereas my husband is fine with the presentation. For those who are wondering, the goat curd tastes like sour cream.

After I finished the salad, the main course arrived soon after. It’s lamb done two ways, one a cutlet and the other a small piece of shoulder, and accompanied with gem lettuce and baked mash celery. My husband hadn’t return yet, and so the maitre’D very kindly covered his plate with a bell jar to keep it warm.

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The lamb is so awesome! This is the best lamb dish I have eaten so far. I asked for my lamb shoulder to be well done, and it’s amazingly moist and tender, and not a hint of gaminess. Initially I thought the restaurant served a measly small piece because it was a set lunch, but I realized the lamb cutlet is a whole breaded chunk of meat. It turns out to be the right quantity. When my husband returned, he thought he was going to have cold lamb and was pleasantly surprised that the dish was still warm. He described it as a “Bouchon” moment for lamb. (He had the best Goddamned roast chicken out there at Bouchon Bistro.)

Anyway when I pushed Alex out while my husband had the main, the maitre’D asked if they should serve the dessert after I returned, and I said yes. Alex dozed off during the walkabout and I was able to return to the restaurant. We were served a dessert In a cocktail cup. The staff explained to us what it was but I couldn’t catch what she said. It didn’t look like or taste like what we ordered; instead it appeared to be passionfruit panna cotta. My husband told me it was the pre-dessert dessert, probably to cleanse our palate.

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Finally the dessert arrived, and it looks rather pretty, like a fallen leaf on a layer of soil.

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There are pistachio ice cream and honey saffron ice cream on a bed of crumbly chocolate brioche with nuts. The ice creams have the right amount of sweetness which is balanced by the slightly saltish brioche. There is the creamy texture with crunchiness, and it makes for a fabulous combination. My husband, who’s not a dessert fan, wiped his plate clean, and even had a spoonful of my brioche.

To end the meal, we were served chocolate and nougat petits fours.

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Pollen has lived up to its reputation with fabulous food and good service. It is one of the very few restaurants in Singapore that provide such attentive but not obtrusive service. I was very impressed that a bell jar was provided to keep the food warm without us requesting it. Even though the cost of the set lunch has increased I think it’s still worth the money, especially when you also get entry into the Flower Dome. In fact I noticed many people ordered the set. I saw through the kitchen door, plates and plates of lamb shoulder, and I wasn’t surprised. My husband and I would like to try the degustation menu. But first we will have to find a babysitter for Alex. The lunch would have been more enjoyable if we didn’t have to take turns to push him around. Though I discovered some pretty autumn wreaths at the Flower Dome while walking around.

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Celebrating birthday with baby Alex at Pollen.

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